Writers Without Borders

Entry by: Sirona

2nd March 2016
‘Welcome to WWB. How may I help you?’
‘Hi. My names Susan Boyce and I’m here for an interview at 10:30 with Siobhan.’
‘Hello Susan. Could you please take this non-disclosure agreement and read it? If you’re happy to sign it, I can let Siobhan know you’re here.’
‘Oh. Yes, of course. Thank you.’
I retreat from the reception desk to the visitors seating, the customary low couches around a coffee table. A water fountain, a few coffee table books. The absence of promotional material is notable; I’m not surprised. It’s been impossible to prepare for this interview; you can’t find out much about WWB. They don’t advertise, they don’t explain who they are or what they do.
Folding myself onto a seat I scan the form, drumming the end of the pen against the paper, foot tapping a different rhythm. I’m full of anxiety and something else…anticipation? I’m a writer. I love it when I have that feeling of a story unfolding around me, of being a character in someone else’s work.
Sucking in a breath I pause, then sign. I’ve already submitted a portfolio and undergone a thorough medical, this is just a small step beyond that.
Once I’ve returned the form to the receptionist I’m asked to wait again, I just have time to sip on a cup of perfectly chilled water when a woman with vivid red hair bobbed to her chin arrives at my side.
‘Susan? I’m Siobhan. Would you like to come this way?’
I fall into a less certain version of Siobhan’s confident stride, to her side and just a half step behind. Siobhan flashes me a smile, glossed to perfection as she swipes her corporate ID and an electronic lock clicks to admit us to the inner sanctum. We walk down a short corridor, take the first right and are soon in a small conference room.
‘Take a seat.’ Siobhan’s gestures are as consummately elegant as the rest of her, it’s hard not to feel clumsy and awkward around her and impossible to reject her invitation. ‘I’m going to show you a short video presentation which explains a bit about WWB and what we do here, and then we’ll get on with the interview part. Coffee?’
I nod, suddenly dizzy, as though I were standing on a cliff’s edge being asked to jump. ‘White, no sugar. Thank you.’
The video begins as I settle myself, crossing my legs and folding my hands carefully in my lap in the hopes it will disguise the tremor.
‘Welcome to WWB, where art and science combine.’ I glance towards Siobhan but she’s busy making coffee with the indifference of one whose heard this pitch a thousand times.
‘WWB was founded more than a decade ago by twin brothers, Samuel and Leonard Conway. These unique individuals were both quickly identified as gifted by the school system, but their gifts were in radically different areas. While Samuel had a gift for understanding the arts, Leonard had a natural affinity for quantum physics.’
Left and right brain, I think, feeling more and more a part of this narrative.
‘During their post-graduate studies, a late night debate over the relative merits of their fields lead to a breakthrough in our understanding of the world around us.’
Siobhan slides a coffee in front of me but I barely notice, I’m leaning forwards now, trying to see where this is going.
‘Samuel’s work dealt mainly in analysis of recurring motifs in folk stories from around the world; Leonard was working on a thesis based on Many Worlds Theory. Sharing their research gave them the unique perspective that underpins WWB today and lead to the formation of a company that now works with governments, companies, and individuals, worldwide to solve problems.’
I absently reach for my coffee. I wish they’d cut to the chase; what do they do? Why might they want me to work for them?’
‘The Conway Brothers collaborated on research which led to remarkable discoveries; creative inspiration was not as random as had previously been thought. Certain writers actually possessed the ability to transcend the natural borders between moments in time and different realities; they were not making things up; they were simply accessing a different part of their consciousness.’
I give out a coffee scented splutter of disbelief, turning to Siobhan to find her watching me with amusement. I’m half tempted to leave, but whatever game they’re playing has grown into a successful business.
‘By developing technology that monitors the brain waves of writers, we are able to determine to within a great degree of statistical probability, whether the ‘story’ they create is simply that, or contains information gleaned from the past, the future or alternate realities.’
‘WWB is now part of the decision making process in some of the most critical choices facing our world; from the personal micro level of locating missing persons, or solving crime to the macro; what is the likely outcome of a particular technological advancement or commercial decision.’
I have a sudden understanding that this is a joke, an elaborate set up. I glance around for cameras, but can see nothing obvious. I look to Siobhan again, holding what I hope is just a hint of a challenge in my eyes. She reaches for a remote control and hits pause.
‘You tested positively for the ability to write about the present.’
‘A combination of brain wave analysis from your medical and your response to the prompts we gave you.’
‘That…that was just fiction!’
Siobhan smiles that assured smile.
‘Are you trying to say I have some sort of…psychic powers?’
‘I know it’s a lot to take in, but most writers who come on board with us describe how in a way they had always known. They had always experienced the world as being something not quite real, of their lives being part of a story.’
My spine slumps with the realisation that she is describing my experience from reception; that moment of anticipation, when everything had just seemed like I was one with the narrative.
‘You understand the non-disclosure agreement now? This is proprietary technology, we don’t want even the ideas falling into the wrong hands, yet.’
‘How do you know someone isn’t writing about them, right now?’ I say, flippantly.
‘We closely monitor fiction,’ Siobhan says, addressing the question as genuine.
I ruffle my hair, destroying the carefully groomed style I had hoped would impress the good people at WWB. I understand now they are far, far more interested in my mind.
‘How does it work?’
‘Much as it did with your portfolio. We give you a prompt; you respond to it as you feel most inspired. Let’s say we were asking you to assist in a missing person’s case. You would have as much information about the missing person as possible, to set the scene, then we’d ask you to tell their story. A number of other writers, how many will depend on the budget of the client, will also respond. Common themes are identified, coming up with a ‘most likely scenario’ of what happened.’
My jaw works, my head shaking as I want to fundamentally deny what she’s saying.
‘That…I mean; this can’t be science. Yes, there are recurring motifs in stories. Cultural bias will affect the response to prompts. If you tell me about a drunk girl leaving a club in the early hours…there are bound to be common themes in what anyone, not just writers, would tell you about what happened.’
‘Our equipment allows for that.’
It isn’t what Siobhan says that is so compelling, it’s the certainty that underpins ever word. It’s the fact that she has that response so readily to hand, that she must have had this same conversation countless times with other people.
‘It’s real?’ I ask, after a moment.
She nods, and slides a piece of paper towards me. I glance down at it.
Employment contract between Susan Boyce and WWB.
A pen is placed by my right hand, and I numbly pick it up.
The package is generous. I’d be a fool to turn it down, no matter how crazy I think the whole idea is.
I sign.
Siobhan nods her approval. ‘Welcome to Writers Without Borders’.

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